chlorhexidine: (Iggy)
[personal profile] chlorhexidine posting in [community profile] fic_ception
Gladio straightened out the collar around Ignis's throat with a faint smile. The collarmaker had been right, of course; peridot really did bring out his eyes. The insignia in the centre of the collar, resting just above the hollow of Ignis's throat, was picked out in real silver, and highlighted with the stones. It gave Gladio a small, slightly guilty thrill to see the spread wings of the family emblem on Ignis. It signified that Ignis was his, and Gladio found a pleasure in that he tried to resist.

Ignis's suit was a new one, too. Plain black, but quality material, and smartly cut so it showed off the length of his leg, the slenderness of his waist, and the breadth of his shoulders. Gladio ran his fingers down the lapels of Ignis's jacket, feeling Ignis's eyes on him. “You look good,” he said.

Ignis smiled as Gladio tugged the collar of his shirt open that little bit wider, so the silver stitching on the collar peeked through a little more. “Fortunately, this isn't a formal social function, so I'm not required to look better,” he said. A simple gathering, this, of managers and employees of the auctionhouse. Gladio's father and Cor would be in attendance, too, but it didn't require that anyone do any schmoozing. There were no deals to be struck, and no consequences to befall the company, or Gladio, from whatever may pass tonight.

Gladio huffed with amusement. “Just stand next to Cor, you'll look stunning,” he said, and then added, “not that you don't anyway.” Ignis really was damned pretty, Gladio thought, in a masculine way. He was all slender hips, and strong jaw, and arched eyebrows. Sure, his colouring was boring, and a month working during actual auctions had made Gladio realise that, much as it irritated him to think it, in a way he couldn't explain, but he had the build and facial features of a pricy companion.

He'd come out of himself in the months since they'd moved in to the apartment, too. He'd been a bag of nerves the first few weeks, in comparison to now, jumping at the slightest shift to his routine. Now Gladio woke on a sunday to find Ignis's leg draped across his thighs, head pillowed on his chest. More than once Ignis had been the one to tug him back into the bed when he'd started to move, and they'd begun the day getting tangled in the sheets, Ignis calling Gladio's name in ecstasy. He'd got experimental with his recipes, tugging Gladio by the hand to the door, asking to be taken places. He massaged Gladio's shoulders after work, shared a shower with him now they had more time in the mornings, and didn't fuss so much about when Gladio ate, just so long as he did.

Gladio felt like he'd been swept up in a whirlwind, buffeted this way and that by Ignis's growing confidence, delighting first in his requests, and then in his demands, to go places together, to do things together, to do that again but harder and oh, Gladio.

And still Ignis had taken his hand, a quiet, easily missed gesture when he'd joined him on the balcony with a drink late one night. He'd come to stand silently by Gladio's side, and slid his fingers into Gladio's palm as they looked out over the city lights. “They're not as legendary as the constellations,” he said, “but there are a thousand stories in these stars, too.” Gladio had looked at him, at the quiet sincerity in his expression, and watched as Ignis had balanced his glass on the railing and brought his hand up to cup Gladio's cheek and take a sweet kiss. “We make but one point of light in this galaxy, but this is my favourite story of them all.”

Gladio had kissed him again, and again, and then he'd taken Ignis on the balcony, above the stars rather than below them, and it had been better even than Gladio's idly romantic fantasies. Ignis was beautiful, and perfect, and Gladio had fallen hard, and somehow Ignis kept finding ways to make him fall ever harder.

Like now, when he dipped his head, an expression of shyness that Gladio still found adorable even if he didn't blush as much any more – it was hard to blush, he'd said, when there was nowhere on his body that Gladio hadn't had his mouth – and smiled, saying, “You're biased, and Cor is perfectly handsome.”

“Yeah,” Gladio agreed, “shame he played hooky during smiling lessons.”

Ignis laughed. It was quiet, and genuinely amused, and made his eyes close up in a way that was nothing short of adorable. Then he tugged Gladio's lapels neat, and softly scolded, “That's mean.”

Gladio shrugged off the gentle scolding, and tilted his head as he looked at Ignis. He'd come out of himself a lot, but he hadn't been with Gladio at any social occasions before, no matter how small and informal. “You gonna be okay, tonight?” he asked, watching the way Ignis's eyelashes moved as he looked Gladio over.

“Yes,” Ignis answered. He didn't look up, smoothing his fingers over the lapel of Gladio's jacket in a preoccupied way.

Gladio was learning to recognise the signs. A stressed Ignis was a fussy Ignis, and fussing with Gladio's clothing was a kind of displacement behaviour. It gave him something else to think about. “Nervous?” he asked.

Ignis finally looked up at him, and then down again with a thin but genuine smile. “Yes,” he admitted, with a hint of relief.

Gladio felt warmth bubble up in his chest. He really wanted to drag Ignis into his arms and squeeze him until he squirmed, but Ignis would only tell him off for creasing their clothes. Instead he tucked his fingers under Ignis's chin, touching the freckle that had come out below Ignis's mouth, to one side of his chin with his thumb, and told him, “Just stick by me. You'll be fine.” He felt Ignis's nod, and saw the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed in deeply. Gladio ran his thumb up Ignis's jaw in silent reply, and then Ignis offered his wrist for the cuff and leash.

*****


Ignis lingered a step behind Gladio as they entered the bar. The whole venue had been hired, and it was a free bar and buffet, which stood by one wall and looked rather sad compared to the spread Gladio knew Ignis would have put out. He glanced at Ignis, who was looking at it critically, and just knew Ignis was deciding what he'd change in his head. Food really was his passion. Food, coffee, and Gladio, if you judged by his enthusiasm for the subjects, and Gladio strongly suspected it went in that order.

Cor stood by the bar, with Gladio's father nearby. He was dressed smartly, with a black formal collar around his throat, instead of the usual plain brown one. That, and a smart suit were the only changes to Cor's appearance. He stood with one hand in his trouser pocket, jacket bunched up against his wrist, and gave Gladio a nod. Gladio returned it as he approached, and then felt his father's hand land companionably on his shoulder. “Glad you made it,” he said.

Gladio flashed his father a smile. He hadn't seen him in weeks, and that had been little better than a passing visit to the auctionhouse. “Wouldn't miss it,” he said. Back home, there hadn't been many parties that didn't involve family, so one with work colleagues was a new experience for Gladio, too. “How are you?”

“Fine,” his father answered, and then gave Ignis a polite nod of acknowledgement. “You both seem to be doing well.”

Gladio gave a small laugh, as he turned and unclipped the tether from Ignis's wrist. Ignis patiently held his hand out for Gladio to unclip the leash, and he dropped his hand again when Gladio's fingers brushed the back of his hand. He gave Clarus and Cor a polite bow, and lingered just behind Gladio. “Yeah,” Gladio admitted, wondering how much Cor had said after his initial visit, and what Cor might be thinking now and then saying to his dad later, “we're getting there. How's Iris?”

“Missing you,” Clarus answered, and he shifted slightly to direct over Gladio's shoulder, “and your cooking,” to Ignis. “The chef we procured is good, but,” Clarus waved a hand, as if to fill in words he couldn't really find.

“Ignis is better,” Gladio supplied, with a grin.

“You flatter me,” Ignis said, the first thing he'd said since walking through the doors. “I'm sure his talent surpasses my own, your palates have simply grown accustomed to my methods, sir.”

“You undersell yourself, Ignis,” Clarus replied, and Ignis bowed his head in that shy response Gladio had come to know too well. “If I'd know then the value of what we'd be losing, I'd have taken my son up on his offer of a payment plan.”

Gladio grinned brightly at his father. “Too late now,” he pointed out.

Clarus gave a murmur, and then flashes his son a smile. “Come, I want to see how Weskham thinks you're doing. Cor?” he asked, directing a look at Cor, who had remained silent but relaxed through the whole conversation. “Make sure Ignis gets a drink, won't you?”

“Yes, sir,” Cor replied. With that, Gladio was led away from Ignis, shooting a reassuring smile back at him as he went.

“How do you think you're getting along?” Cor asked, once Gladio's back was turned again. He wouldn't be difficult to spot if Ignis needed to find him, as he still stood several inches taller than most of the rest of the room, which was beginning to grow busier as more and more of the auctionhouse employees arrived. Some had brought their own companions, dressed in what could only be described as smart casual outfits, but only a few of them had the signature brightly coloured hair that made one stand out as a companion.

“It's easier,” Ignis answered.

“And the role he asks of you?” Cor asked, turning towards the bar and gesturing for the bartender's attention.

“I cook, clean, do his laundry, tend his apartment, monitor his finances, and make sure his life does not consist of work and sleep,” Ignis answered.

Cor flashed him a sideways look. “And the rest?” he asked, giving Ignis a calculating look.

“Would be none of your business,” Ignis replied, “with all due respect.”

Cor gave a nod as the bartender approached. “I see,” he said, “so you have settled in.”

“He's a caring master, and I don't find his affections to be as,” Ignis hesitated slightly, recalling the description Gladio had used for himself, “full on as others anticipated. It has taken time, but I am as happy with him as I had hoped to be.”

Cor ordered two drinks. There was champagne on tap, but what he ordered was a red wine that would, if the auctionhouse wasn't picking up the tab, cost enough to have made Ignis think twice, and a whiskey over ice. He handed the red wine to Ignis when it came.

“How did you--?” Ignis asked, leaving the question unfinished.

“I'm a companion,” Cor answered, “as well as a bodyguard. Reading people is my job.” The bar was starting to crowd with people ordering drinks, and Cor gestured Ignis to follow him to the end, so they wouldn't be blocking the way. Ignis did, checking that Gladio's dark hair was still visible above the growing throng. “I take it he returns your affections,” Cor said, when they came to a halt.

Ignis looked into his glass of wine, debating his answer before he nodded, softly. “He does,” he confirmed.

“You sound sure.”

Ignis looked up again, into the pale blue eyes of Cor. This was a test, he realised. It wasn't Cor trying to pry and find out what went on in his and Gladio's personal lives, it was Cor pushing him to make sure his foundation of trust in Gladio was as solid as he claimed. Ignis had been in love with Gladio since he was sixteen, and had crushed on him for months before that, and Cor probably knew it. Gladio had never said he loved Ignis, those words had never left either of them, but he held Ignis's hand while they slept, and derived comfort from holding him, nose tucked into his hair, and he let Ignis coil around him, holding him close for the warmth and head pressed his chest so he could hear the comforting thud of Gladio's heartbeat while he pretended to sleep in the morning.

“I'm more than sure,” he replied.

“Good,” Cor answered, sounding satisfied with the response. “Now,” he began, changing the subject, “I have a request.”

*****


Gladio wasn't worried. He trusted the people here, and in any case, Ignis was wearing the Amicitia family emblem on his collar, so there was no doubt about who he belonged to. Anyone here that dared touch him would be doing so on pain of the unemployment line, not to mention property damage charges.

He wasn't worried, it would just be nice if Ignis was easier to spot in a crowd. Cor had returned to his father's side, minus Ignis, and then asked Gladio where Ignis was, and that wasn't really a good sign. Ignis had left Cor's side to come and find him, Cor had said, and that had been twenty minutes ago, and still there was no sign of Ignis.

A check of the bathroom indicated he hadn't been waylaid in there. Cor said he'd had a couple of glasses of red wine. Gladio had felt a little jolt of pleasure when Cor had told Gladio what Ignis had been drinking, because Ignis had demonstrated a preference for that ever since Gladio had made him try some, and had then spent the rest of the evening making him gasp and arch. As drinks went, it had some good memories associated with it, and Ignis could never seem to drink it while Gladio was around without the memory of that night coming back to him, to always interesting results.

Gladio did a lap of the room, pushing past a steady throng of increasingly spirited people, and was on his way round through a second look when he spotted him. Ignis had his back to a wall, glass of wine held almost defensively between himself and Scarlett. It would have been funny to see a six foot tall man hemmed in against a wall by a shorter, voluptuous woman, if it hadn't been for the obvious discomfort on Ignis's face. Scarlett, if she wasn't so far gone that she was oblivious, must have been ignoring it.

“There you are,” Gladio said, announcing his presence as he came and took a place by Ignis's side. “Thought you'd got lost.”

“Sir,” Ignis replied, a small utterance acknowledging his presence and nothing more. Gladio put a comforting hand on his shoulder, and wished there wasn't an audience so he could pull Ignis into his arms.

“If you lose him it's because I stole him,” Scarlett said, flashing Gladio a slightly wobbly grin. “You never said he was so pretty,” she added, accusingly.

Gladio could see the tense way Ignis held himself, making him look like a startled deer, or a rabbit on the edge of bolting. It was hard to tell how long Scarlett had held him cornered, but it didn't look like she'd done it maliciously. “You never asked,” he replied, using the excuse to slip an arm over Ignis's shoulder and tug him in against himself. He fixed Scarlett with a bright, winning smile, and didn't let it drop even when the sensation of Ignis's fingers curling into the back of his jacket made him want to drag Ignis home and smother him in apologies and kisses.

“You're so lucky,” she said, her attention firmly on Gladio now. “Is he fully trained?”

Scarlett had definitely hit the complimentary champagne a bit too hard. Normally, she wouldn't ask that sort of question, especially not of Gladio. Gladio had seen the auctions of collars being sold for their first nights, he'd seen the quiet, defeated looks on some of them, and the scared nerves on others. The worst were the ones that just accepted it, sitting placidly, doing exactly as they were told, without looking defeated, or scared, or as if they were feeling anything at all about it. It was like they'd retreated into themselves.

Ignis's first night had been in Gladio's bed, in Gladio's arms, and they'd used a little too much lubricant, and laughed a whole lot more at the ridiculousness of some of it all, like Ignis getting a cramp in the sole of his foot which Gladio had needed to help him stretch out, and Gladio wiping his lubricant coated fingers on the bed because the tissues had fallen under it, and he couldn't grip the condom wrapper, and Ignis had told him off mid-way through. None of it had been like in stories, or in films, but it had been perfect anyway because Ignis had clung to him as he came, and they'd just kissed and cuddled for ten minutes after, until Ignis had insisted they get up so he could change the bedding, and Gladio had gone to clean himself off, and then so had Ignis, and then they'd kissed and cuddled some more, in the clean bed, and Ignis had fallen asleep curled up in his arms.

Gladio had wished it had been his own first time, because that was how he wanted to remember it. It was how everyone's first time should be; awkward, and filled with laughter, and open, happy affection that had ended up being so much more important than the whole Tab A and Slot B part that was the mechanics of taking someone's virginity.

The First Night auctions bothered Gladio. The training collars received for them did too. Their virginity was being auctioned off, and they were expected to perform like a pet doing tricks. The pleasure of the buyer was infinitely more important than the comfort of the collar. But those auctions brought in a lot of money. That was the way of the world, and it made Gladio unhappy.

Scarlett knew that. “How many of those have you had?” he asked her, swallowing his irritation at the subject and instead changing the direction of the conversation.

Scarlett looked at her mostly empty champagne flute. “Three,” she said, “or four.” She paused for a moment and then admitted, “It might be five, if you don't include this one.”

“You're gonna regret that tomorrow,” Gladio said, with a bit of a smirk.

“Tell me about it,” she replied, wavering ever so slightly on her heels.

Gladio flashed her a grin, and then gave Ignis a slight tug towards himself, arm still resting heavily over Ignis's shoulders, keeping him near. “I'm gonna find my dad anyway. Iggy's an early bird, I should probably get him home.”

Scarlett awwed, but Gladio managed to extricate Ignis from her attentions without any resistance. Once they were clear, Gladio asked, “You okay?”

Ignis let go of the back of Gladio's jacket and looked down. “I'm sorry, sir,” he said.

“Hey,” Gladio said, letting his arm drop down Ignis's back, and then linger there, “you've got nothing to apologise for.”

“I tried to find you,” he said, “but some of your colleagues realised who I must be, and then I couldn't get away.”

“It's all right,” Gladio said, looking at Ignis. He looked so unhappy it made Gladio want to pull him into a hug, but this was definitely the wrong environment for that. “Come on,” he decided, “let's go home.”

Ignis looked up at him, sharply. “You shouldn't leave on my account, sir.” That idea alone seemed to be causing Ignis further distress, and Gladio sighed. There was no winning right now.

He looked over towards his father, seeing Cor at ease, holding Weskham and a couple of other auctioneers in conversation with an easy confidence. His father was in animated conversation with Weskham's companion, a woman, slightly younger than Cor, who smiled and contributed as she didn't have a collar around her throat.

And then there was Ignis, who'd come so far in Gladio's company, but the moment he was out of his comfort zone and in a new situation, he became the nervous housecollar again.

Maybe, Gladio thought, Cor was right. Ignis was comfortable around Gladio, he knew how to be himself around Gladio, and around Cor, and Iris, and even Gladio's father. He didn't know how to be himself, and handle people he didn't already know. If Gladio took him to another party, let alone some of the more formal social functions that came up on the auctionhouse's calendar, he was really going to struggle.

“Nah,” he answered, brushing off Ignis's concerns, “I've had enough to drink. Let's go.”
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